Introduction: 2 Samuel tells the story of David’s reign as king of Israel. 2 Samuel 1 begins with David’s discovery of Saul’s death. Although Saul became David’s enemy, David forgave Saul and honored him as if he were a hero and friend. From Saul’s judgement and David’s actions to honor Saul, God reveals seven lessons on His faithfulness, His mercy, and His grace.
First, as a result of his unrepentant sin, Saul caused his death and the death of three of his sons in the exact manner that God warned would happen. Through Saul’s punishment, God reveals that He is sovereign and His Word always comes true. Second, Saul lived in rebellion against God. Among other things, he refused God’s order that he kill all the Amalekites. As a result, an Amalekite later killed Saul. Through Saul’s fate, God reveals that He will allow you to reap what you sow. Third, although Saul had ruined 20 years of David’s life, David forgave Saul and mourned his death. From David’s example, God reveals that He wants you to forgive and mourn for even your enemies. Fourth, David later order the execution of the Amalekite who killed Saul. The Amalekites in the Bible symbolized the flesh. From this, God reveals that He will judge the things of the flesh. Fifth, David created a poem that celebrated both the faithful Jonathan and the backslidden Saul. This symbolized God’s mercy and grace. He will never leave nor forsake you because of your sins. He will remember both the faithful and backslidden believers. Sixth, David celebrated both the faith and acts of obedience of both Jonathan and Saul. From this, God reveals that He will forget your sins. Yet, He will still remember and celebrate your faith and faith-led obedience. Finally, David gave the highest praise to Jonathan for his Spirit-led agape love. Like David, God will also celebrate your agape love for others in heaven.
David learns of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. Three days after David killed an Amalekite army that had captured the families of his soldiers, he learned that Saul and Jonathan had died in a battle with the Philistines: “1 Now it came about after the death of Saul, when David had returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, that David remained two days in Ziklag. 2 On the third day, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul, with his clothes torn and dust on his head. And it came about when he came to David that he fell to the ground and prostrated himself. 3 Then David said to him, “From where do you come?” And he said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.” 4 David said to him, “How did things go? Please tell me.” And he said, “The people have fled from the battle, and also many of the people have fallen and are dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also.” (2 Sam. 1:1-4). Saul and three of his four sons died fighting the Philistines on the edge of Mount Gilboa (1 Sam. 31:1-8). Saul and his sons’ deaths fulfilled God’s warnings of judgment. His Word always comes true.
God’s Word always comes true, including His warnings about the consequences of sin. Saul believed in God and once even prophesized when he was filled with the Spirit (1 Sam. 10:10-11). Yet, he did not fear God or believe that His judgments would come true. God’s judgments upon Saul were slow and progressive to give him every opportunity to repent. First, he lost his right to have heirs to his kingdom: “But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” (1 Sam. 13:14). Second, when Saul refused to repent, he then lost his own kingdom: “But Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel’ . . . “So Samuel said to him, ‘The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you.”’ (1 Sam. 15:26, 28). Third, when Saul again refused to repent, God took his life and his sons’ lives on the same day: “As you did not obey the LORD and did not execute His fierce wrath on Amalek, so the LORD has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the LORD will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the LORD will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!” (1 Sam. 28:18-19). The book of Chronicles reveals that Saul died both because of his rebellion against God’s Word and because he turned to the demonic realm for guidance: “So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the LORD, because of the word of the LORD which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it, and did not inquire of the LORD. Therefore He killed him and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse.” (1 Chron. 10:13-14). His suffering became so bad that he asked his armored bearer to kill him (1 Sam. 31:3-5). As demonstrated with Saul, God’s Word always comes true.
God’s warnings of future judgments should also be taken seriously. God does not want to judge anyone: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). Anyone who repents can find eternal life in Jesus. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life . . . He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Jo. 3:16, 18). Yet, God warns that whoever rejects Him as their Lord and Savior will face an eternal life without God: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (Jo. 3:36). “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mk. 16:16). These judgments are avoidable and should horrify you. Are you taking steps to spread the hope available through Jesus?
Unrepentant sin can cause innocent children to suffer. Saul’s sins impacted his entire family and all of Israel. Jonathan was a righteous man who did not deserve to die. Yet, the prophets warned that a nation with leaders living in rebellion can bring judgment upon the nation’s innocent children: “They will devour your sons and your daughters;” (Jer. 5:17(b)). “My tent is destroyed, and all my ropes are broken; my sons have gone from me and are no more. There is no one to stretch out my tent again or to set up my curtains.” (Jer. 10:20). “Thus says the LORD, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.’” (Jer. 31:15; 10:20). Examples of the sins of a parent causing pain on their children can be seen in the modern world as well. For example, an alcoholic parent will frequently cause his or her children to suffer. Are you engaging in sins that will hurt your family and your children?
Always trust that God is in control, even when bad things happen. Centuries later, Paul revealed: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28). David previously tried to join in the attack against Saul and his army (1 Sam 28:1-2). God protected David from this sin by having the Philistine generals reject him (1 Sam. 29:1-11). God also wants you to trust Him, even if His plan does not make sense to you. ‘“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.” (Is. 55:8). When bad things happen to you, do you trust in God’s plan for you?
Saul died at the hand of an Amalekite that he refused to kill against God’s direction. David learned that an Amalekite was responsible for killing Saul: “5 So David said to the young man who told him, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?” 6 The young man who told him said, “By chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and behold, Saul was leaning on his spear. And behold, the chariots and the horsemen pursued him closely. 7 When he looked behind him, he saw me and called to me. And I said, ‘Here I am.’ 8 He said to me, ‘Who are you?’ And I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’ 9 Then he said to me, ‘Please stand beside me and kill me, for agony has seized me because my life still lingers in me.’ 10 So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown which was on his head and the bracelet which was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.” (2 Sam. 1:5-10). Ironically, Saul would not have died at the hands of an Amalekite (and maybe not at all) if he had obeyed God. God ordered Saul through Samuel to kill all the Amalekites as the instrument of His judgment (1 Sam 15:3, 18). Saul’s sins of disobedience and rebellion came back to haunt him throughout his life.
You reap what you sow. Saul lived a life of rebellion against God. By doing so, he lived outside of God’s blessings and protection. God is only a shield to those who take refuge in Him (2 Sam. 22:31; Prov. 30:5). With his death, Saul reaped the seeds of his rebellion against God. “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it.” (Job 4:8). “You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors,” (Hos. 10:13). “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Gal. 6:7-8). Are you sowing seeds of rebellion in your walk?
With faith-led obedience, Saul could have enjoyed a “prolonged life.” Through Moses, God had repeatedly promised that faith-led obedience will lead to His blessing of a “prolonged life” on Earth: ‘“Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. 47 For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, . .. .” (Dt. 32:46-47). “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” (Dt. 5:32-33). “So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time.” (Dt. 4:40; 6:1-2; 12:28; 22:6-7; 25:13-16; Lev. 18:5). Faith-led obedience to the Fifth Commandment by honoring your parents and your heavenly Father will also lead to a “prolonged life”. (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16; Eph. 6:2-3). In these verses, God does not promise that you will live to be old or any specific age. Instead, you have an allotted time on Earth that can be extended through faith-led obedience. Your acts of faith-led obedience might extend your life a week, a month, a year, a decade, or some other increment of time. Only when you get to heaven will you learn of the extent of God’s blessings. Are you giving God reasons to prolong your life?
David mourned for all the fallen Jews, including his former adversary Saul. After learning of the Jews’ defeat, David and his men mourned for the fallen Jews, Jonathan, and even their former adversary Saul: “11 Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so also did all the men who were with him. 12 They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan and for the people of the Lord and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.” (2 Sam. 1:11-12). Even though they were enemies, David later honored Saul (and Jonathan) with a proper burial in their home town of Zela. “They buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zela, in the grave of Kish his father; thus they did all that the king commanded, and after that God was moved by prayer for the land.” (2 Sam. 21:14).
Forgive others, even when they don’t deserve it. Because of Saul’s jealousy, David lost his first wife and his court privileges. He then spent 20 years as a fugitive barely escaping death on multiple occasions. David had every reason to celebrate Saul’s death. His mourning shows that David had in fact forgiven Saul. Jesus commands you to forgive your enemies in the same way. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:32-35). “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” (Mk. 11:26). If someone repeatedly sins against you, Jesus says that you must liberally forgive that person “up to seventy times seven” times. (Matt. 18:22). Is there anyone you need to forgive?
Mourn for the loss of any life. Solomon later revealed that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecc. 3:4). Thus, you should never rebuke or undermine a believer mourning the loss of another person. Aaron and Moses each received a period of mourning of 30 days (Nu. 20:29; Dt. 34:8). Joseph and the Egyptians first mourned Israel / Jacob’s death for 70 days (Gen. 50:3). Joseph then mourned his death an additional seven days (Gen. 50:10). The typical Jewish mourning period was seven days. Like David, you should mourn any death, even a former adversary. Failing to mourn shows a lack of love in your heart for others.
Celebrate the hope of being with Christ in death. David’s grief is recorded to let believers know that it is healthy to grieve the loss of loved ones and even adversaries. Yet, a believer’s grief today should also contain the hope of knowing that a fallen believer is only “asleep” until Christ returns: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” (1 Thess. 4:13-14). “who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.” (1 Thess. 5:10). “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” (Ro. 14:9). “It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;” (2 Tim. 2:11). Knowing that your loved one is in a better place that you cannot see is the kind of faith that God expects from you: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18). “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” (Ro. 8:24). “for we walk by faith, not by sight-- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:7-8). If you know someone is grieving the loss of a believer, let them grieve. Yet, also encourage them that the believer is merely “asleep” until Christ returns.
David orders the death of the Amalekite for his unrepentant sin in killing Saul. After he boasted of his role in killing Saul, David prophetically imposed God’s judgment upon the Amalekite for his unrepentant sin in killing God’s anointed king: “13 David said to the young man who told him, “Where are you from?” And he answered, “I am the son of an alien, an Amalekite.” 14 Then David said to him, “How is it you were not afraid to stretch out your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” 15 And David called one of the young men and said, “Go, cut him down.” So he struck him and he died. 16 David said to him, “Your blood is on your head, for your mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the Lord’s anointed.’” (2 Sam. 1:13-16). David had two opportunities to kill Saul. Yet, he feared the penalty for killing God’s anointed king. When he first had an opportunity to kill Saul in a cave, he rebuked his men for trying to kill their anointed king: “So he said to his men, ‘Far be it from me because of the LORD that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD'S anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the LORD’S anointed.” (1 Sam. 24:6). He later prohibited his nephew Abishai from killing Saul when God placed Saul into a deep sleep: “But David said to Abishai, ‘Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the LORD’S anointed and be without guilt?’” (1 Sam. 26:9). He therefore regarded Saul’s murder as a sin against God: “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.” (Ps. 105:15).
The Amalekites symbolized Satan’s use of the flesh to wage war against the Spirit. Amalek was the grandson of Esau (Gen. 36:12; 1 Chr. 1:36). God hated Esau’s descendants (Mal. 1:2-3), because they were symbolic of a life of the flesh and Satan’s evil reign on Earth. The Amalekites attacked the Jews hundreds of years earlier when they had just escaped from Egypt (Ex. 17:8-11). They were a people of great warriors who lived as nomads in the deserts south of the Negev. They were such mighty warriors that they caused the 10 spies to believe that the Jews could not invade the Promised Land (Dt. 9:2). If the Amalekites symbolized the flesh, the Jews symbolized the promise. Like the Amalekites, Satan has placed your flesh at war with God’s Spirit: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity . . .” (Gal. 5:19; 1 Tim. 1:10). According to the Apostle Paul, you are a slave to whatever you serve: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Ro. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). In the end, you must pick that which you will serve: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). If you choose the flesh, you are at war with the Spirit, “[T]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . .” (Rom. 8:7). Which master are you serving?
Show no mercy to the desires of the flesh. After giving the Jews victory when the Amalekites first attacked them, God promised to wage war against them (Ex. 17:14-16). Before his death, Moses advised that they would be the instrument of God’s judgment against the Amalekites after they were settled in the Promised Land (Dt. 25:17-19). Through Balaam, God also warned of the destruction of the Amalekites (Nu. 24:20). To fulfill His Word, God first ordered Saul to act as His avenger against the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:3, 18). He then judged Saul when he refused to obey God’s command (1 Sam. 15:13-23). Had Saul faithfully executed God’s judgment, this attack against him and his family never would have happened. Just as David made no provision for the people of the flesh, you also should make no provision for the things of the flesh in your life. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Rom. 13:14). Like David (and unlike Saul), you must root out things of the flesh in your life. One commentator observes: “Using this picture, we see that Saul’s failure to deal with Amalek when God told him to ended in ruin, with an Amalekite delivering the death-blow. In the same way, when we fail to deal with the flesh as God prompts us, we can expect that area of the flesh to come back and deliver some deadly strikes.” (David Guzik on 2 Samuel 1). Have you left areas open in your life where Satan may attack?
David prophetically celebrates both his faithful brother Jonathan and the wayward Saul. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David prophetically sang praises for both the faithful Jonathan and the wayward Saul: “17 Then David chanted with this lament over Saul and Jonathan his son, 18 and he told them to teach the sons of Judah the song of the bow; behold, it is written in the book of Jashar. 19 “Your beauty, O Israel, is slain on your high places! How have the mighty fallen! 20 “Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult. 21 “O mountains of Gilboa, let not dew or rain be on you, nor fields of offerings; for there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.” (2 Sam. 1:17-21). The book of Jashar is mentioned one other time in Scripture (Josh. 10:13). It no longer exists. Yet, many believe that it contained ancient (non-inspired) Hebrew poetry. Saul did not deserve a poetic memorial in the same way as Jonathan. Yet, that is a perfect example of God’s mercy and grace. His mercy and grace is not based upon your merit. Even though Saul wasted his spiritual inheritance, he was still God’s anointed king. God would not leave or forsake him.
God also will not leave or forsake you because of your sins. At the end of his life, Moses encouraged his people by advising that (even when they sinned) God “will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6(b)). The writer of Hebrews later quoted Moses’ final words to encourage believers never to lose hope and turn to the unholy spirits of the world, like avarice, greed, and coveting: “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”’ (Heb. 13:5). If you have sinned against God, have faith that He will never leave nor forsake you. If God celebrated Saul, there is no reason why your sins will keep you from being celebrated in heaven if you accept Jesus Christ.
If you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, have faith that your sins are forgotten. If you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, all your sins will be forgiven. ‘“But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ . . .” (Mk. 2:10; Ps. 103:12; Is. 44:12). Even better than His forgiveness of your sins, He promises to forget your sins as well. “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” (Is. 43:25; Heb. 8:12). Yet, you must accept in faith Jesus’ promises to forgive and forget your sins (Heb. 11:6). Have you fully accepted in faith that your old sins were nailed to the cross and forgiven?
Out of love, never speak evil of others. David could have forgiven Saul without singing his praises. Yet, he did because he was Spirit-led. Like David, the Spirit-led love inside you should restrain you from speaking evil of others (1 Cor. 13:5). It should further motivate you to find good things to say about those who deserve no praise at all.
David prophetically celebrates the acts of faith and obedience of both Jonathan and Saul. Also under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David prophetically sang praises for the acts of faith and obedience of both Jonathan and even Saul: “22 “From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, and the sword of Saul did not return empty. 23 “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and pleasant in their life, and in their death they were not parted; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. 24 “O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.” (2 Sam. 1:22-24). Jonathan served God throughout his entire life. Saul served God for just a season. Yet, God celebrated both.
God is faithful to remember your faith-led works for Him. God promises that He will never forget your acts of faith and selfless charitable acts. “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” (Heb. 6:10). Many regard Saul as a worthless leader. Yet, before he backslid in his walk, he rallied the nation to save the Jews of Jabesh-gilead in modern Jordan from mutilation and servitude to the Ammonites. (1 Sam. 11:1-11). These people never forgot what Saul did for them. When news of Saul’s death spread across Israel, they mourned his death (1 Sam. 31:11-13; 1 Chron. 10:11-12). David later thanked these men for honoring Saul (2 Sam. 2:4-7). The message for believers is that God will always remember your acts of faith and service. The many sins throughout your life will not cancel out your good works. This is true even if (like Saul) the number of sins outweigh the number of faith-led acts.
David prophetically celebrates Jonathan’s agape love with the highest honors. Finally, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David prophetically sang the highest praises for Jonathan for his agape love to David and to God’s people: “25 “How have the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan is slain on your high places. 26 “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women. 27 “How have the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” (2 Sam. 1:25-27). Immediately after David’s defeat of Goliath, he and Jonathan became bonded in agape love through their faith. Recognizing David’s Spirit-led calling, Jonathan also submitted in love by offering him the symbols of his future claim to the throne. These included is royal robe, his sword, his bow, and his belt (1 Sam. 18:1-4). When Saul tried to kill David, Jonathan first alerted David. He then convinced his father not to kill David (1 Sam. 19:1-6). When Saul broke his word and tried to kill David again, Jonathan risked his own life by protecting David and seeking to determine if Saul again planned to kill David (1 Sam. 20:1-40). After learning that David would need to flee, Jonathan comforted him (1 Sam. 20:41-42). When Saul pursued David to kill him, Jonathan came and again comforted him: “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God.” (1 Sam. 23:16). The two twice formed a covenant of Spirit-led agagpe love: “Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.” (1 Sam. 20:17). “Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.” (1 Sam. 18:1). Jonathan’s love was even more remarkable because it came with his willingness to release all claims to the throne. Jonathan received the greater blessing because he gave up his power instead of clinging to it. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12).
Love your neighbor as yourself. Like Jonathan, God wants you to love others (including potential rivals) as yourself. This is God’s second greatest Commandment: “The second is this, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mk. 12:31; Lk. 10:27; Matt. 19:19; 22:39; Rom. 13:9; Ja. 2:8; Lev. 19:18). “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’ (Gal. 5:14). “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jo. 13:34). “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (Jo. 15:12). “This I command you, that you love one another.” (Jo. 15:17). “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;” (1 Jo. 3:11). When others pose a threat, do you show love in your response?